NPS allocates $25k to highlight Hotel Chelsea’s LGBTQ legacy on Register of Historic Places

Hotel Chelsea is at 222 W. 23rd St. in Manhattan.
Hotel Chelsea is at 222 W. 23rd St. in Manhattan.
Wikimedia Commons/Velvet

As part of the National Park Service’s (NPS) broader effort to preserve historic sites in underrepresented communities, the federal government is giving the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project a $25,000 grant to fund a campaign to highlight the LGBTQ history of Hotel Chelsea on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more than a century, Hotel Chelsea, which is at 222 W. 23rd St., has hosted writers, musicians, artists, and others who have contributed to the cultural landscape in New York City and beyond — including in the LGBTQ community. Over decades, the hotel attracted stars like Stormé DeLarverie, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Frida Kahlo, among others, underscoring its special place in queer history. The hotel remains open today, but according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, it underwent significant changes in 2011 when developers evicted many longtime residents and started renovating the building, which was built in the late 1880s.

While the hotel has been designated as a New York City landmark since 1966 and joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, the national distinction does not come with recognition of the hotel’s LGBTQ history. The funding will allow the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project — which already produced a detailed, in-depth account of the hotel’s history — to conduct research to amend the hotel’s designation on the National Register of Historic Places to include the space’s rich LGBTQ history.

“We are honored to have the National Park Service continue to support our work to increase LGBT diversity on the National Register of Historic Places,” Amanda Davis, the project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in a written statement. “Now more than ever, as the teaching of queer history faces pushbacks across the country, sites like the famed Hotel Chelsea serve as important reminders of the contributions that LGBT people have made to American history and culture. This amendment will officially recognize these contributions by documenting, to date, over 80 notable LGBT artists, writers, musicians, and activists who helped turn the Hotel Chelsea into an internationally recognized icon of New York City.”

The $25,000 grant represents just a slice of a nationwide $1.25 million funding effort by the NPS, which is spreading the money across 21 sites around the country for the purpose of surveying and nominating underrepresented historic locations that could be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Other spaces on the list include native American sites as well as southern plantations that played a key role in the history of slavery and LGBTQ-related spaces in Colorado, Massachusetts, and other areas.

“The National Register is the official list of our nation’s historic places that are worthy of preservation,” NPS Director Chuck Sams said in February. “The National Park Service is proud to work with our Tribal, State, and local partners through the Underrepresented Communities grant program to ensure that the National Register better reflects the important places and significant stories of all Americans.”